On Being Single, 32, and Wanting Children
When I was 22, I thought to myself by the time I’m 32, I need to decide if I want kids. It was kind of dumb, like — how do you know when you’re going to know yourself? How can you say, with certainty, when you’re going to have certainty? But what do you know, I turn 32 next month, and for the first time in my life — yeah, I’m pretty sure I want kids. Like, 75% sure. Like, I’ll be planning the next decade of my life under the assumption that I’m having children until further notice.
Which isn’t to say I don’t think I could live a very happy life without kids. From my current vantage point, I think I could live a life just as full with or without kids. I don’t believe a life lived expressing capitalist values would be just as full. I don’t believe devoting my life to my career and the pursuit of material goods would be just as full. But, I do think that a life devoted to Zen would be as full. I do think a life devoted to helping people would be as full. A life devoted to love, in whatever form it takes, will always be worthwhile.
But, I’m thinking right now, that some of the love I hope to one day have will be the love for my child. Why did it take me 10 years to admit that to myself?
Part of it was people kept telling me “just wait until you’ll hit 30, your biological clock will kick in and you’ll desperately want children.” And, ok, I guess that’s exactly what happened, but that’s such fucking obnoxious bullshit to tell a young woman in her 20s. And the reason it’s obnoxious bullshit is that narrative is part of the system of control we exert over female behavior.
This is the narrative: women, your biological clock is ticking. Find a man who is “good enough” while you’re young enough and be satisfied with him so you can have your children. That’s why people keep reminding women that their time is limited; it’s a push to get them to settle for male partners who are suboptimal.
I’ve lived the repercussions of that mindset for far too long. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been absorbing abusive behaviors normalized by the patriarchy. I’ve had boyfriends who force sex on me when I did’t want it, I’ve had boyfriends who tried to stop me seeing my friends, I’ve had boyfriends who disregard my academic/professional aspirations demanding attention when I need to work (one time, an ex called me at 3am before a final demanding emotional support from me.) Essentially, what I want for myself is always seen as less important than what these men want from me.
So, despite the fact that I’m 32, and single and want a kid, I look back at all those assholes who told me my biological clock was ticking, and I think thank god I didn’t listen. Thank god I didn’t marry one of those men who was cruel to me. Thank fucking god I didn’t have kids with them.
Because here’s a few things I got through not listening. By not settling for that asshole who disregarded my professional aspirations, I got a good job. I can support myself, and a kid, and probably a partner if push comes to shove. By dumping assholes who refused to let me see my friends, I’ve developed very deep platonic connections. I have friends I love very much, and a community of people who mean the world to me. By breaking up with people who inflicted horrible sex on me I… got to stop having sex with them! And, I got to meet other people. Nicer people. Better in bed people. And I had sex with them instead.
The patriarchy forces women into surrendering so much of their essence in pursuit of the heterosexual dream, and that’s just something I could never stand. For 10 years, I couldn’t imagine a future where I could have a child and be true to myself because my male partners were fucking terrible.
Then I had my first, and only, long term relationship with a woman and all my assumptions changed. Did we want kids? It was an open question. And if so, who would have them? Or would we adopt?
Falling in love with Nancy really opened things up for me. The way I loved Nancy was different from the way I loved men. We couldn’t really give each other the things straight people can give each other — children, marriage (this was before the gayz could marry), societal acceptance. But in way, that only highlighted the intensity of my feelings for her. I felt like I really loved Nancy in a way maybe I hadn’t loved my male partners. Or maybe I had, but my love for them had become muddled and polluted by all this societal bullshit.
Ultimately we broke up over some severe lesbian bed death brought on, in part, by my own sexual anorexia after all my trauma. I haven’t dated anyone seriously since her, and we’re still good friends. But where I once saw one path, I now see many paths.
I could find a (nice, loving) male partner and have kids with him and live out the heterosexual dream. I have no objection to that, except my own cynicism toward straight men. But, I could also find a female or gender non-conforming partner and have kids with them. Or I could adopt kids later in life. Or, I could marry someone who already had kids. Or, I could become a single mother by choice.
So when I say I want kids, there isn’t one future I want. There are many possible futures. But, no one ever suggests the other ones. People aren’t warning 25 year old women about their impending biological clock so they can use the next decade finding the perfect sperm donor. No — they tell young women this to force them to date men who are mean to them. There always seems to be this masculine glee in the maternal desire, because a woman’s attachment to her children makes her vulnerable to exploitation.
But the world is changing. Women have more options than ever before, and we don’t have to put up with that any longer.